Need More Time to File Your Tax Return? Here Is How To File For An Extension

by Khaleef Crumbley on April 16, 2011

in Taxes

file an extension

For many people, meeting the IRS’s April 18th tax return deadline for filing and paying the 2010 taxes will prove impossible. Unfortunately, the IRS did not automatically extend the deadline because of the tax filing delay!

Fortunately, the IRS allows taxpayers to file for an extension of the deadline to October 17th. The process for requesting an extension is fairly easy, however, there are a few things that you must consider regarding this option.

What Happens When You File For An Extension?

Filing for an extension gives you an additional six months to submit your tax return. For tax year 2010, that means that your tax filing deadline would be extended from April 18, 2011 to October 17, 2011.

An extension allows you to submit your tax return after April 18th, but it does not extend the amount of time you have to make a payment. This means that you will owe interest on any amount not paid by the original April 18th deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date. In order to avoid all interest and penalties, you must pay the full amount due by April 18th.

How To File For An Extension On Your Tax Return

In order to request an extension, you must file Form 4868 (PDF) with the IRS before April 18th. You can electronically submit Form 4868 through IRS Free File. Using this service to prepare and electronically submit Form 4868 is free to everyone, regardless of income.

Actually, since I offer professional tax preparation services, I can also electronically submit Form 4868 for you – just use the contact form on the linked page.

What If You Can’t Pay Your Taxes By The Deadline?

Since extending your filing deadline doesn’t push back the deadline for payment, what can you do if you can’t pay the full balance by April 18th? Here is what the IRS recommends:

If your return is completed but you are unable to pay the full amount of tax due, do not request to extend your filing deadline. Submit your tax return on time and pay as much as you can. The IRS will send you a bill or notice for the balance due. To apply online for a payment agreement, go to and click “Online Payment Agreement Application” at the left side of the home page under Online Services. If you are unable to make payments, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your options.

If I Still Have To Pay By April 18th, What Is The Benefit Of Filing For An Extension?

By filing to extend your deadline, you are able to avoid the failure-to-file penalty. This penalty is usually larger than the failure-to-pay penalty, so by filing to extend your deadline, you are able to avoid paying the larger penalty.

Also, if you are able to pay at least 90% of your tax liability (remember that for a large amount of taxpayers, your withholdings may cover this amount already) by April 18th, and request to extend the deadline, you will be able to avoid paying penalties, as the IRS explains:

  • The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  • You will have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  • If you filed an extension and you paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability by the due date, you will not be faced with a failure-to-pay penalty if  you file by the extended due date and pay the remaining balance with your return.
  • You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.

So the bottom line is that if you have already completed your return and you know that you can’t pay the entire balance, it is better to just submit your tax return, pay what you can, and set up a payment plan with the IRS.

You should only request to extend your deadline if you are unable to complete your tax return by April 18th!

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© 2011, Khaleef Crumbley. All rights reserved.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Jasmine

Very good article Khaleef.
I’ve never tried filing an extension for the deadline since I haven’t heard of it.Thanks for the detailed information.


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